Whenever you go to see a movie or read a book, it is generally agreed upon that sequels are not as good as the original. Video games are a different animal entirely. It is not just assumed that a game’s second outing will be better than the first; IT IS EXPECTED! Yet even in gaming there are sequels of such magnitude that we can only weep at their perfection. And this brings me to Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest.
Wait a second … Diddy Kong?!?
Yup. This time around the Big Ape has been kidnapped by the evil Kremlings for foiling their first scheme. It’s up to his little buddy and his high-flying girlfriend Dixie to go to Krem-Croc Island and save the day! The setting of the game should be of particular note of anyone studying game design, as this is one of the best examples of building an expanding, coherent world. Right from the start you can see DK Isle in the distance, and the game even starts RIGHT where the first left us: On Gangplank Galleon. And it only gets better from here! Throughout the adventure you will traverse a volcanic crater, battle through a scary amusement park, and tour a scary forest. I just kept thinking to myself, “Oh, the places we go in this game!”
Gameplay-wise this is still the tried and true DKC gameplay that you know and love. The main difference centers upon the lack of Donkey Kong’s weight. In the last DKC, the weight difference between Donkey and Diddy had a tremendous impact on how you played the game. But as The Big D is out of commission, you no longer have the advantages and disadvantages that come with that. That means that while Diddy is as acrobatic a jumper as ever, he no longer has a partner capable of taking out bigger enemies like Kruncha. All’s not lost, however, as Dixie can do one thing that Donkey and Diddy cannot. She can fly! This makes precision jumping easy, and compliments Diddy’s long and high jumping ability well. All in all it’s a brilliant way to expand and differentiate between the members of the Kong family.
Speaking of which, the Kong family also gets some new members. Funky returns with a brand new flight service, and Grandma Wrinkly Kong offers helpful tips and tricks as well as the ability to save your game. One thing I didn’t like about this is that you are now charged to save your game! What kind of Grandma would do that?!? “I know you’re on a perilous journey to rescue my Grandson. That’ll be 2 bucks!”
Yeah, Grandma sucks … No wonder Cranky is so Cranky (He’s back as well). 🙂
Finally, there is Swanky Kong, who offers a trivia game for extra lives. Aside from having really interesting bits of DK trivia, it’s a lot of fun in its own right.
Animal buddies Enguarde and Rambi also return, this time with friends! Squawk the parrot, Squitter the spider, and Rattly the snake make their appearance here. Just like before they can give you tremendous advantages throughout a level, and many levels this time around are built around the animal buddie’s abilities.
You will need them to get to the Castle Keep. Donkey Kong Country 2 is a much more difficult game than its predecessor, which is a good thing considering the general ease of the first. Level variety is even more diverse than in the first game with more vertical levels and new Bramble stages where even touching the walls or floors means losing a life! The level themes are used to great effect here as well, and just like the first I never found myself getting bored due to repetition. Some of my favorite highlights include a roller-coaster ride while running from a ghost, a race with an evil parrot, and an elevator ride up a castle tower while fending off the diverse cast of enemies the game throws at you!
Bosses also get more attention this time around. In the last game the only boss that really felt inspired was K. Rool himself. But in this game we get a crazy sword, a club-wielding hulk, and a ghost buzzard! Sure they are not the most inspired boss battles of the 16-bit era, but they are much more refreshing than the average platformer bosses.
And when you do finally beat the game, don’t think you are finished! Did you find all of the Krem Coins? These tokens are hidden throughout the world, and for every 15 you find you will gain access to a new and very difficult stage. Think of this as the Special Stage ala Super Mario World, and a great addition that corrects the ‘too easy’ gripe I had with the first. To this day I cannot beat Animal Antics!
Graphically, the game is great, with smoother animations and a more refined look than the crudeness of the first. The pirate theme also makes for a refreshing change of pace. Musically, the game is a masterpiece, with David Wise once again delivering one of the masterworks of the era. Of particular note is the Sticker Bush Symphony which just takes me to another world … a good thing because the stages it plays in makes me want to throw my controller against the wall!
And that just about sums it up. More Kongs, more animal buddies, more enemies, more environments, more levels, more secrets; more of everything that made the first so great. If that isn’t enough, I’ll put it this way: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest is the Empire Strikes Back of video game sequels.
Five out of five Stars.
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